Size, smoking matter for tattoo removal

September 24, 2012

The size of a patient’s tattoo, and the patient’s smoking status, are significant factors in whether a tattoo can be effectively removed with lasers, according to a recent study.

Milan - The size of a patient’s tattoo, and the patient’s smoking status, are significant factors in whether a tattoo can be effectively removed with lasers, according to a recent study.

Tattoos that include blue, yellow or green pigments have an effective removal rate as much as 80 percent lower than tattoos containing black and red pigments, the study found. Patients who smoke had a tattoo removal success rate up to 69.7 percent lower than those who don’t smoke, investigators found.

Researchers with Isituto di Chirurgia e Laserchirurgia in Dermatologia, Milan, reviewed variables that impact effective tattoo removal with a Q-switched laser in 397 patients. After 10 sessions, 47.2 percent of patients had effective removal of their tattoos. For 75 percent of patients, it took 15 treatments to remove the tattoos.

Tattoos that contained only black ink had a 58 percent removal success rate, while those with black and red ink had a success rate of 51 percent, according to the study. Tattoos that were larger than 30 cm2 also had a lower removal success rate.

“To our knowledge, this study is the first to formally assess prognostic factors for effective tattoo removal by Q-switched laser,” the study authors wrote. “Several variables influence response rate and should be considered when planning tattoo removal treatments.”

Lasers used in the study included a Q-switched 1,064/532 nm Nd:YAG, and/or a Q-switched 755 nm alexandrite laser. The type of laser used depended on the tattoo ink colors.

In a second study, researchers with SkinCare Physicians, Chestnut Hill, Mass., determined that the picosecond 755 nm alexandrite laser safely and effectively removes tattoos. Nine of 12 patients treated with the alexandrite laser demonstrated greater than 75 percent clearance after two to four treatments, researchers reported.

Both studies were published online Sept. 17 in Archives of Dermatology.

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